By Alyssa Oursler
I was in Austin, Texas with my mom the moment I decided I “had” to quit my job. I was working in tech public relations at the time, for a company that had moved me out to San Francisco (per my request) just a few months earlier. I loved San Francisco but felt my workday was more or less sending a ridiculous number of emails—oftentimes to people (reporters) whose jobs I wished I had.
In Austin, in a conference session about turning your passion into a business, a million tiny ideas collided in my mind. My mom had long said I should start my own company and she left the session hoping I would feel inspired to do something of the sort down the line. She was a bit horrified when the first words out of my mouth after the session were: “I need to quit my job...like, yesterday.” I explained to her that I needed to just think of my writing as a small business, and began rambling about the marketing plan I’d just dreamt up.
When I was a kid, my mom told me we couldn’t be friends because she was my mom. I don’t remember how—I like to imagine my younger self presenting a detailed, compelling PowerPoint presentation that changed her mind—but she eventually gave in. We’ve been best friends ever since, and even have coordinating tattoos. But, as I realized in the months after my Austin revelation, my mom was onto something with her initial thought process.
In our parents’ worlds, freelancing and side hustling weren’t really things. And in most parents’ worlds, stability and health insurance are priorities—especially for their kids. My mom—in her role as mother and friend—is risk-averse out of love. She isn’t going to push me towards a plunge like being a freelance writer in one of the most expensive cities in the country. As a result, even though my mom is my go-to person for countless things, I realized she couldn’t be my main source of community for the jump I was about to make.
Realizing where you shouldn’t look for support as a freelancer or entrepreneur is only the first step, though. And I had to re-learn the lesson that my besties and family couldn’t be my everything over and over again, as I turn to them often out of habit. It took me a long time to understand what I needed out of a community, too. Writing is especially challenging, because it’s so often a solo activity.
But whether it’s writing or another passion, don’t be afraid to lean on your community. That’s what they’re there for! In the beginning, I felt I should always be excited, because freelance writing was a dream that had become a reality. But the reality of the dream was that sometimes, it was hard. As I wrote in one of my creative nonfiction pieces last summer: “Just because I built this island so I could build other things on it doesn’t mean I always like it.” I’ve learned to admit when I’m having a hard time, and I’ve learned that most people (the good ones, at least) really enjoy being there for someone who needs it.
Over time, I’ve patched together an amazing support system—people scattered across the country, people I’ve met at writing conferences and residencies, on work assignments, over coffee, over Twitter, and so on. Some understand a very specific piece of the puzzle that is my freelance writing career; some are supporters of the overall vision; some offer creative inspiration; some just listen to me bitch when I need it most. All of them are important.
When you click with someone, put in the effort to keep the relationship going. Just because you’re pursuing a passion doesn’t mean you have to do it alone, or that things will always be easy. A strong community will make all the difference when you’re in a rut.
Alyssa Oursler is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter and at Tea in a Coffee Shop.
When to Jump™ is a community dedicated to exploring the fundamental question we all think about: when is the right time to go do what you really want to be doing?